A wish fulfilled: Privatizing a DDR machine

Let’s start here: DDR was losing its popularity in Indonesia between mid 2000s to early 2010s. We have never had any newer version of DDR after X3 vs. 2ndMix until the long-overdue introduction of online-based DDR A in late 2017 (that’s a five years gap). We had a lot of fun with Ace for about 2 years… until the pandemic struck nationwide arcade operations in March 2020.

Last known DDR exercise before the pandemic – March 2020

I counted a full 13+ months of total hiatus between my last exercise and first comeback after lockdown. The main problem is access: local arcades were operating on a random basis (govt regulation), not to mention the closest white cabinet from my place had been pulled out (turns out it was rented). We shouldn’t forget that I’m getting old… better not wait any longer 🙂

Various DDR home pad models/ brands | left: L-Tek | Right: StepmaniaX

The first idea

Fast forward to the second quarter of 2021, I was thinking to just get a home pad and make it work with my ‘DDR’ software. Soon after, I came up with what seems to be the best possible choice (please forget SMX): an L-Tek Pad (somewhat decent build), seen them in actions with little to no problem (except wobbly bar). But there was one problem: I refused to pay the shipping cost for importing a nearly 30kgs object from Poland to Indonesia (plus a 17.5%++ of taxes). There must be a better solution for this.

During my contemplation, I remembered something from last year’s marketplace listing: legit DDR machines for sale by a local game center (that’s right, no typo – as this is unlikely to happen prior pandemic) for a relatively reasonable price. I was pondering for a few weeks before making a impulsive courageous decision. But here’s the problem… beside unaffordable white cabs, there were very few playable (I mean it) machine left here. Flashback to the past: brand new cabs almost never entered Indonesia, instead we were fed with secondhand ones and were told to make use of them just be grateful.

DDR SuperNOVA machine available for purchase

This is Sparta madness!

Now back to the good news, I was not convinced enough by looking at the pictures. Most of them have already got their dead CRTs replaced with generic LCD monitors (name it: bad contrast, additional input lag, and sometimes incorrect aspect ratio), not to mention hard and unresponsive pads (poor maintenance over the years). But I gave it a try anyway, with hope to find an acceptable one. Long story short, I made contact with a friendly marketing personnel to find out what they have left of KONMAI’s aged dance machines.

1st survey: DDR X black cabinet

Location test #1

After paid my respect to Sunday Service, I drove straight to the first location test. From afar, I can already ‘hear’ the aura of the 11th installment of joy bringer without seeing anything yet.

Cabinet review: First thing I noticed was the monitor, it had an LCD inside (running at 4:3 ratio) with no flicker (but retained the signature lag of X). The P2 speaker was not functioning along with some marquee neons and a few missing button on both card readers. Above all, I was glad they are keeping the original marquee and monitor bezel.

Pads review: P1 right arrow somehow stuck even after removing all sensors (probably the wiring), aside from uneven sensitivity issue and a few dead neons. Nevertheless, the bars were sturdy with minimum rust.

Can’t say I was satisfied with the result, but you can still appraise it for the Bemani PC Type-4 PCB inside (it’s a dragon!).

2nd survey: DDR SuperNOVA2 black cabinet

Location test #2

Still on the same day, I continued my agenda 9.2 km further to an uncharted territory. It didn’t take long before I found what I’m looking for: a SuperNOVA2!

Cabinet review: Fake SN1 marquee, got an LCD screen as well (stretched 16:9 ratio), and some missing ‘teeth’ from both card readers. Fortunately both speakers working, albeit with unbalanced ‘treble x bass’ setting.

Pads review: Other than being X-marked due to ‘health protocol’, P1 had cross-wiring issue on UP & DOWN arrow (so it was unplayable). P2 on the other hand suffers from curved panels, though they have good sensitivity.

Let’s keep this unit in check.

3rd survey: DDR SuperNOVA black cabinet

Location test #3

After gathering some remaining energy, I visited the third branch with not-so-high hope. They got a SuperNOVA running here, placed beside a PIU LX cabinet (I feel like a dinosaur already).

Cabinet review: Bad LCD screen (very dark on the top), missing teeth, speakers OK and it retained an original SN1 marquee.

Pads review: No dead sensor nor loose L bracket here, but need to stomp every time an arrow come.

I was asked in case I made my mind that afternoon (yes, to choose one). But not all hope is lost, there was ‘The 4th Survivor’ lying around just outskirts of the capital. The big problem is, the arcade branch were sealed ever since the pandemic closure. Thankfully, I convinced the madame to sell it.

4th survey: DDR SuperNOVA 2 red cabinet 🙂

Location test #4

It was 7:15 PM on Monday after a Gran Turismo session on the highway to destination. Fast forward, I bought some delicious breads for the staffs as a token of gratitude for their overtime before they made me sweat: “Sir, something’s wrong with the machine…”

Cabinet review: It’s a Japanese Red Cab running SN2 with 31khz flat CRT intact and an almost-mint physical condition, except one thing: the game won’t boot (stuck in a never-ending PS2 home screen loop).

Pads review: Not possible since the game won’t run.

I was told to wait for the pill good news if I insisted on acquiring this unit, so I waited a good amount of time.

The same machine when in active duty before the pandemic hit – circa November 2018

Against all odds

A couple of weeks passed, only to hear the HDD is beyond repair… (it’s Python 2; so no bootleg – yet for JP version). But not all hope is lost and we can still choose one from the rest of the cripples, right? NO. This is ‘the one’. After some discussions, they agreed to swap the whole computer unit with the one from loc. test #2 (I convinced them swapping is possible between SuperNOVAs).

For sure it worked! Both parties were happy and finalized the deal. There goes my RTX-PC project budget…

The D-Day

Package delivered

It took no longer than a few days (and three men) to unload the heavily-wrapped 450+kg endangered species from the truck to her new home. The cab was split into 4 partitions and believe me, even so they’re still pretty hefty to move/ carry around (can’t believe she fits in!). While waiting for installation crew to arrive the next day, I partially disinfected the machine.

Installation of DDR cabinet in my living room

Basecamp establishment

It was actually quite simple to merge all partitions into one playable apparatus. Make sure to properly raise the leg levelers evenly to separate the caster wheels from the floor. I used a waterpass to correctly measure the flatness of cab body and pads. BONUS: I also obtained a genuine Japanese manual book alongside with maintenance record left by the arcade operator inside it.

Happily testing the machine with a friend

We tested all its basic functions: audio knobs, test & service buttons, CRT menu buttons, and gameplay-related functions without issue. The problem is: I needed to re-adjust myself with SuperNOVA2 timing judgement after years of playing Ace & A20, other than three missing metal corner brackets, four dead sensors, and some pad screws. You can also read how I repaired and modified my DDR pads, don’t forget to give me a thought.

Plenty of homework ahead

I can’t stop here at 357 songs and one version, because I would love to run all possible mix on this cab. Along the way, I converted my DDR cab to run Stepmania, a System 573 unit is coming, and Bemani PC would be next! and successfully ran a System 573 + Bemani PC Type-4 inside it.

For all players who read this, if you are/ were that passionate in DDR plus in a position to aim for a private cab (without dire consequences to: financial, health, and family/ home), I strongly encourage you to take the shot while you still have the chance and strength to play. You can find Jeffrey’s online guide to figure out which cabinet model is worth your effort.

Thank you for reading, I hope you find this story useful.

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